Chessdom: We are here with Mr. Andrea Pasini from Premium Chess. Premium Chess is the online platform adopted by many federations and by FIDE itself. The Fide Online Arena (FOA) project seems to be a very complex online representation of the over the board world of chess – there is official FIDE rating, titles, classrooms, junior area and more. But let’s start from the beginning, how did you come up that project?
Andrea Pasini: The reason to start the project is very simple. Chess is a sport, and probably the only sport that has the potential to perfectly align with the online revolution that we witness these past years. New generations have connectivity as part of their DNA. We decided to develop an online platform to be offered both to FIDE and federations. FIDE has been one of the first adopter of our platform, followed by many other institutions as clubs and federations.
Premium Chess, the company behind FOA, started 3 years ago. We started by running official tournaments under the aegis of the Italian Chess Federation and a prestigious Italian Chess Club. As a result of the first year of activity we had a lively community of chess players that enjoy our offer of official tournaments and daily events.
The next year, thanks to the recognition of the ACE Guard anti-cheating technology, we started our international activity and finally, in 2015, we launched the currently running FIDE events – Online World Blitz Championship for Amateurs, Women and Junior players.
This is not all. By the end 2015 we will announce new exciting initiatives to complete the chess revolution that is here for everyone to enjoy.
C: Aren’t there enough online chess services in the moment?
A.P. : In a world with 600 million people interested in chess, the online chess services are far from enough. But despite the wide offer of online chess services, there is only one platform recognized by FIDE. This is our uniqueness.
We have affiliated with FIDE to bring what you have over the board – titles and FIDE rating – in the online world. Thanks to Premium Chess even the National Federations can have their Online Arena where title, national ranking and championships are available.
The free account is available for any chess player and is powered by the advanced Premium Chess technology used by Fide.
C: Can you explain more about the single sign-on and is it the feature making FOA unique as platform? Is it your leading feature that differentiates you from other chess platforms?
A.P. : This innovation allows each FIDE user to become automatically a FOA member and to have access to the FOA features with the same user and password.
I would not define it as the leading feature that differentiates FOA from other platforms, but it is a feature that provides you easy access to capabilities which you will find nowhere in the world of internet chess.
Firstly, FOA is rating aligned with FIDE. The first day of each month, as soon the traditional FIDE rating lists for rapid and blitz are published, the total over the board rating change is added to (subtracted from) the player’s FOA rating. In this way, FOA ratings are upgraded to an official status to reflect a player’s overall activity, online and over the board, making it the ideal place for a professional player or an amateur that wants to bring his game to an official and higher level.
Secondly, FOA has a whole new set of titles. More than 200 players are now online WIMs, WGMs, IMs, GMs. And this is a revolution, as you achieve official status without boarding a plane, without paying for hotels, without travel problems, and you have access to it every day.
This is our mission. We want to become the sole and unique online chess site where you can start learning chess at schools, take online lesson, gain national titles, play national championships and finally be part of the FIDE elite getting FIDE Titles and participating in FIDE Championships.
C: This sounds logical knowing that internet and chess always go together. Having official status, aren’t you worried about problems with privacy, cheating, etc.
A.P. : Let me start with the question about cheating. It has always been a problem for chess, online and over the board. With technology nowadays physical or online tournaments will have problems to some extent.
FOA addresses this critical issue by implementing the Ace-Guard anti-cheating solution. This is a combination of real time technical check and historical data analysis. Besides constant monitoring of your activity online, it does a very important task.
Cheating in chess is like doping in cycling, and Ace-Guard reduces the problem with the same logic. In cycling you keep “biological passport” of the participants, so that you can catch problems in the future with past date. In FOA we use a similar strategy, keeping history and anti-cheating analysis of a player in a passport and we can cross check it at any time.
Just like in cycling, this does not eliminate the problem to 100%, but makes it extremely difficult to use external help without being caught. With Ace-Guard technology FOA is practically the most secure place on the internet for chess at this moment.
Regarding privacy, we are following the latest EU and international regulations. We go a step further by creating special zones for our players. One example is the Junior Online Arena, where only U14 players will be allowed with specific supervision.
C: Junior Arena? Could you please tell me more about it?
A.P. : This is a unique feature of our offer. It is completely free Online Arena, with advanced training features, to be used by the Chess Federations to promote chess in schools. Currently we have agreements with federations and clubs, one example being the Italian Chess Federation where the Junior Arena will be used in Italian schools all over the country as a main tool for chess in schools.
C: What are the next steps for FOA?
I mentioned this in the beginning of the interview, FOA is a big project. We are way ahead technologically compared to other platforms, but chess is big and we need some more steps to become feature complete. Yet, this is the most secure and advanced place to enjoy chess on the internet for players from all over the world. It is the sole official online chess community. Do not miss out the revolution, no matter if you are a player, coach or organizer, come and join us.